Pine Tree & Twin Peak hike

For our next excursion, my hiking buddies and I scaled the Pine Tree trail in Fraser’s Hill in Pahang. As always we had to seek the favor of my sister in law who works and live in Bentong to look after our kids while we’re away. This time around, we had two fellow hikers Bazli and Shameer tagging along.

After a good night’s rest in Bentong, we left for Fraser’s Hill early in the morning. Early morning as in 6:30 am. Our mission was to have breakfast and pack some lunch for the long (and possibly arduous) journey. Which we did at a mamak in town. There’s no other shop open anyway and the nasi lemak stall doesn't open until later in the morning.

The trip from Bentong to Fraser took us slightly over an hour. First thing first on this release. I mean first thing first we reported to the Fraser Hill’s police station. Basically we just wrote down our names, address and other important details like emergency contact just in case. The nice police officer in charge asked where we’re going and briefed us a little bit about the trail. He related the story of a group of hikers who didn't bother to check in at the station and somehow got lost around Twin Peak. They had to call Bukit Aman who relayed the emergency call to the local police station. The local police had to call the fire and rescue service who came to rescue the hikers. So while checking in is perfectly voluntary and optional, it’s a good practice just in case.

Armed with the little map that the officer gave us, we find our way to High Pines road past a place called Mallaig. Soon we found the landmark that everybody kept saying, the TM Resthouse (resort?) which is located just before the entrance to Pines Tree Trail. You can park your car outside TM Resthouse or a little bit nearer just outside Sri Pertahanan — a guest house for the ministry of defence staffs I presume. When we got there there’s no other car in sight, meaning that people rarely come there or we just came earlier than everybody at 9:15 am.

The first 200 meters of the hike was pretty straightforward and flat. It is immediately after that everything started going mostly downhill and then uphill. We knew exactly there and then that this is going to be a tiring hike because after so many descend we certainly are going to go up again if not immediately, later during the return trip. But that’s hiking for you. We didn’t exactly expect it to be a walk in the park, did we?

We reached the peak of Pine Tree Hill about 2 and a half hours later which is pretty quick by our standard. The police officer earlier said it should take 8 to 10 hours return trip from the entrance to Twin Peak and back so getting to Pine Tree Hill in less than 3 hours is a feat by itself. Anyway it was lucky that we had Bazli and Shameer along because we could have totally missed the path leading to the peak had we traveled solo. The two boys had never been here before but they did a little bit of research before about the area. I suppose it’s partly my fault cause I didn’t do enough research to find out where the peak is or watch some YouTube video of previous hikers. While the trail to Pine Tree Hill is clearly marked and straightforward, there were hardly any signboard or the usual red and white plastic trail markers that we usually find. That’s why if you haven’t been here before, I would highly recommend that you do your research first or better still, bring somebody experienced along.

Oh yes, before the final assault to the peak, we had to climb these rocks which looks pretty scary especially for newbies. I must commend my wife who carried on and didn’t chicken out during the climb.

At 1448 meters, Pine Tree Hill is one of the highest hills that I’ve climbed together with Twin Peak at 1507 meters. Despite the height, the climate is pretty warm just like any other place that we’ve hiked in the country. There’s no need for warm jackets and stuff, just a regular t-shirt will do because you’ll be drenched in sweat anyway in the end. Actually since Fraser’s Hill itself is already 1,000 meters above sea level, we actually had to hike about 500 meters more to reach the peak. But if we include the 10 kilometers trail of ups and down, it’s definitely not as easy as it sounds.

This way to Pine Tree hill

We hanged around Pine Tree Hill peak for 20 minutes or so before proceeding to the Twin Peak hill next door. In spite of the name, there’s not a single pine tree around and my guess is the hill got it’s name from the High Pine road that precede the entrance, that’s all. The view from the peak is quite pretty if not remarkable. At least we get a 360 view of the surrounding unlike Gunung Tok Wan before. That said, we got fog covering half our view which is the norm around these parts. Again we noticed there’s not a single signboard stating where we were or are we even at the right peak. None of those signboards that showed we reached the summit and the height of the hill whatsoever. It is only later when we compared our pictures with those on the blogs that we can confirm that we did reach the peak.

From Pine Tree to Twin Peak is 45 minute’s hike and this is where it get’s interesting. The track is covered by mud in several places and the trail forks out a few times though there’s still some plastic markers visible though not prominently. The view from Twin Peak is even more beautiful than Pine Tree and we spend more time there resting, having our packed lunch and just enjoying the view. Again we were the only one around. I half expected a few people reaching the peak before us like I used to in other hills and mountains. You hike alone with your group, not spotting a single person along the way and suddenly there’s a dozen people before you at the peak. Not here at Pine Tree and Twin Peak though.

Now the return journey really tested our resolve. Little that we knew it’s gonna be that though. Bazli and Shameer being about a decade younger than us, breezeed through the trail like they just don’t care. I could argue that I was slowed down by my wife but the truth is I was just as exhausted as her for the return trip. There were so many uphill climb not to mention steps to take that a few times I wondered out loud “what the hell am I doing here?”. That’s normal I guess when you’re a little bit fatigued and there’s no ending in sight. Your four hour return hike felt like an eternity.

While some people hated the sight of these artificial steps, I beg to differ. I think they’re god-sent. At least they’re sturdy and not mud-ridden like some of the paths we travelled earlier. You don’t like the steps take a hike through another route. At least upon seeing the steps, we were somewhat relieved that the ending/entrance won’t be far ahead.

At around 5:00 pm and 8 hours of hiking, my wife and I finally reached the entrance of the trail. Bazli and Shameer arrived an hour earlier (kids). We expected it to rain some time during the end of our hike and despite the slightly dark clouds in the sky, the rain didn’t come until a few hours later. Maybe we’re just lucky because it poured the day before.

We had a late lunch at the food court area near Pine Tree road before returning to Bentong. Remember to report back to the little police station before you leave or else they’d be sending a rescue party to find you. Pine Tree hill and Twin Peak was quite an experience for us. Overall I would rate it as moderately tough. Expect to walk for 10 kilometers in about 8 to 10 hours. Expect rain and muddy paths. Get ready for multiple ascend and descend down the stairs and hill slope. Prepare yourself for a long and tiring journey. Although I felt like no more hiking anytime soon after finishing this one, I’m sure I’m gonna miss hiking again a few weeks later, as always.

View Larger Map

For this trip I get to test the My Track app from Google. It basically tracks my hike and every other relevant information like speed, distance, altitude and elevation. Pretty nifty app for every hikers out there to record their journey. And it doesn’t use much power too, just 40% for my 4 hours hike.

One thing I noticed in this and my other hiking trips is how most woman have an exceptionally large bladder because they didn’t stop to pee even once even after a 6–8 hours hike. Seriously I had to pee at least once during that time or else I’d feel really uncomfortable. Maybe they’d rather hold it than to let it go in front (or near) other guys but really, that can’t be healthy.

Gunung Tok Wan hike

Did I tell you before that this blog is all about my things that I care about in my life and stuff that I'm passionate about? Well my current passion is hiking and climbing so you're going to see a lot of hiking and climbing posts right here.

My son has been nagging me to let him follow me to one of my hikes since forever. But since I don't think he's ready to follow us to any of those long 4-5 hours hike yet I had to say no each time and promised him someday we'll bring him along to Broga or something. So during the Malaysia Day holiday on September 16th, I had the chance to finally bring my kid to Broga and hopefully to Gunung Tok Wan further back if he can take it.

We left home early as always but not early enough because by 7 o'clock the road leading to Broga was actually jam packed with traffic, imagine that. A lot of people were actually doing outdoor activities for a change! The regular entrance to Broga was really crowded that we didn't get to park at the usual spot inside the palm oil plantation. Instead we had to park further along by the roadside, not that I'm complaining. We actually came there to hike so a few hundred meters more walking shouldn't be a problem. Plus, saved me 2 ringgit parking fees.

As expected, the entire hike to Bukit Broga was lined up with people. So crowded that the place looks more like Mid Valley Megamall during a sale than a hiking spot. I know climbing Broga is really mainstream now but I never expected to see so many people that day.

That said, I can't really do anything about the crowd. Can't really tell them to go away or anything. So we just go with the flow. I'm sure many of them are beginners and first timers like my kid here. The hike up to Broga was easy enough even for 10 year old Adam Farihin. Besides I've seen even younger kids climbing Broga before.

We reached the summit in like 40 minutes. Had to wait in line to take a picture at the signboard at the peak. Not contend with climbing just Broga, I had to take my wife and kid to Gunung Tok Wan some 3 kilometers away.

Now going to Gunung Tok Wan is what you call a proper hike. Going through the bushes and trees with not a person in sight. I didn't notice the first sign that said 3 kilometers to Gunung Tok Wan so I was expecting a rather short hike to that place. Needless to say, 3 kilometers on a hilly terrain is like 9 kilometers on a flat surface. We had to go up and down a few hills before reaching the peak.

When you get to this rocks, you're about half-way through your hike.

Since there's rarely anybody else doing this trail, this place could get a little bit creepy at times.

We reached the summit of Gunung Tok Wan, 675 meters above sea level within 2 hours. Adam did okay I guess for the return trip. Sure he did complain a few times asking "are we there yet?" but apart from that he's quite good and adapt at hiking.

Gunung Tok Wan is one of those hill that you don't come for the view because there's nothing to see at the summit. Nothing except for trees all around you. That's why it's not as popular or glamorous as the Broga hills nearby.

Still for me it's not so much about the view but more about the climb and the experience. I want to be able to say "been there, done that". If my purpose of climbing is just about the view from the top, I should be quite disappointed a few times by now.

Yes Gunung Tok Wan is not as picturesque or breathtaking as some of the other hills that I climbed but it's still a challenge nevertheless. If you're tired of climbing the overpopulated Broga hill, I would recommend you to go a little bit further to that hill instead. There's ample rope marker along the way so there's little chance to you might get lost. Again since it's an almost 5 hours hike including Broga, you need to carry enough water (2 bottle should be ok) or else you'll get really thirsty on the way back.

To get to Gunung Tok Wan, hike up to Broga and proceed straight further according to this signboard behind the summit. Take somebody experienced if this is your first time.

Now that Adam Farihin finished his first ever hike/climb, I can actually bring him along for any of those moderately easy climbs after this. Welcome to the cool explorer's club son!

360° view from Gunung Tok Wan, Semenyih, Selangor, Malaysia.

TM Fan Run 2014

TM Fan Run is a run organized by TM in support of the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, Korea. This race is an annual event and it's been going for a few years now.

Coincidentally this is my first official 10K run. I have run 10 kilometers and further before but this is the first one where I paid for the registration, t-shirt, bib, timing chip and other goodies.

So how do you join a race? I usually check out online running portals such as Hooha Asia or Myraceonline. Pick a race that you like (full marathon, half marathon, 10k or 5k) and register yourself straight away. You have the option of paying the registration fee right away on the website (with a minimal online portal fee of ~ 5 ringgit) or you can choose to pay offline to the organizer. Unless you'd like to travel many miles to the registration office I would advise you to pay online. Registration is open for about 1 or 2 months before the actual race and some of them close early once the target participants are full so you might want to register early.

There will be a date and place to pick up your t-shirt, bib and everything which is usually a few days or a week before the race. Make sure you remember to pick up your things because they normally don't distribute the race kit on location. Apart from the official race kit, you can wear whatever you want wether track bottom, shorts or running tights. Whatever makes you feel most comfortable. I even saw people running with wigs, backpacks and kain pelikat, no kidding.

Needless to say, you need to train a few weeks before the race. I trained for about two weeks running on treadmills and also on the road and park. There's a difference between running on those two and it is advisable to train on the road to familiarise yourself with the actual race conditions. If you're running for a 10K race for example, you should run for 3 kilos, 5 kilos and 7 kilometers at least a few days before the race.

On the race day, get yourself on location at least an hour before flag off in case of traffic or other unforeseen circumstances. Besides getting there early will give you ample time to calm down and stretch yourself before the race. The venue of my TM Fan Run was at Dataran Merdeka in downtown KL. The entire field and the immediate road in the vicinity was closed to traffic for a few hours for the run.

My 10 kilometers race started 30 minutes after the 15k runners was flagged off. Waiting between that and my flag off feels like an eternity. Maybe because it's my first race. Anyway my run was flagged off by the Minister of Youth and Sport himself, Mr Khairy Jamaluddin (who was 5 minutes late mind you) and we started running the moment they pull the trigger.

I started slow but steady, letting faster people go by and overtaking slower ones. For beginners, the key is to maintain your speed and pace throughout the race. If you run too fast you may be too tired to maintain your pace and slow down or even walk. If you're too slow then your overall timing might not be so favorable.

I maintained a constant speed and pace throughout the race and didn't slow down to walk on difficult parts of the race, during uphill climbs for example. It's only on my final 2 kilometers of the race that I started to increase my pace a bit and o the last 500 meters dash as fast as I could to the finish line. Still, it was slightly difficult navigating my way through the crowd who were started to walk leisurely towards the end. I'm sure they were mostly 5k runners. There will be water stations along the way (3 for 10k) and drinking water bottles are usually distributed after the race so you don't have to worry about bringing your own supply.

In the end I ran 10 kilometers in 1 hour, 9 minutes and 24 seconds which happens to be my fastest 10k. Not bad at all for a beginner. The route was mostly flat although 1/3 of them are uphill climb. Still if you've been running o exercising regularly, 10 kilometers should not be a problem at all.

I had a really good time on my first race, the crowd, the atmosphere and the run itself. Now that I finished my first 10k, It's not so much about running the fastest but more about the experience and satisfaction. Of course getting the shiny finisher's medal and knowing how well you did is a bonus. I look forward to do other 10ks and later half marathon and finish at least a couple of full marathon in my lifetime. Run for your life!